Amazon just announced Astro, a cutie patootie robot for your home that does, erm, “stuff.”
Amazon imagines the corgi-esque robot tailing you around the house, locating stuff for you with a semi-obscene periscope, and supporting video chats with its touchscreen. Astro boasts onboard facial recognition so it can recognize its owners. It also has a navigation system that should allow it to map your home and dodge stationary and moving objects, just like a robot vacuum cleaner — though, bizarrely, Amazon did not include this actually useful feature, although it does have a cupholder.
Do you need a robodog with a screen following you around? Of course not! I’m not even sure this thing does anything useful, let alone if it’s necessary.
Is it cool? It’s a freaking robot dog, of course it’s cool. Look, you can resent Amazon for its mistreatment of workers, its union-busting, the sometimes deadly pressures it puts on delivery drivers, the devastation it has visited upon small retailers. You should be skeptical of the privacy implications of having a winking, mobile surveillance corgi tooling around your house collecting god knows what kinds of information.
But truthfully, can you look this thing in its winking WALL-E eyes and tell me it’s not adorable? No, you can’t. It is spectacularly, ferociously cute — although no way in hell is it $1,500 cute. That’s way too much to spend on a robot dog with far less usability than a real dog. If you’ve got that kind of cash to blow on something like this, go donate it to the Church of Scientology or something more worthy.
But let’s say you do buy one, or a generous friend with a poor sense of humor gifts you one. Let’s say you are now a proud Astro owner. Well, you now need to answer a most important question, one that has vexed adult dog owners since wolves were first domesticated: